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Making music on the world stage

ACG Strathallan music students have been given a leg up onto the global stage through a series of 'Inspired by Berklee' workshops with internationally acclaimed musicians.
Berklee Workshop

An online masterclass with alternative rock artist, and Berklee College of Music alumna, Chloe O’Brien (aka Neia Jane) was a lockdown highlight, preparing students to tackle song writing and composition in fresh and innovative ways.

Well known for her exceptional song writing skills, Chloe blends a variety of techniques and genres into her music, from alternative rock to acoustic folk, with a smattering of electronica thrown in. Her global following and Kiwi roots (she’s originally from Queenstown but now lives in USA) made her a big hit with ACG Strathallan students.

“It was a very cool experience,” says Year 11 student Amelie Davidson.

“Chloe is a bit of a legend and I really enjoyed being able to share my creative ideas with others in a safe place.”

Focussing on narrative development, the masterclass gave students the chance to preview some of Chloe’s music and work on their own song writing skills. It was the first event for ACG Strathallan students under the new ‘Inspired by Berklee’ initiative, an exciting partnership between the world leading Berklee College of Music and Inspired Education.

After a one-hour online session with Chloe, students were given a week to write - and perform - a song, providing an unprecedented opportunity for growth and development.

Says Year 12 music student Libby Murphy, “The workshop boosted my confidence writing lyrics to songs and not minding what other people thought about them.”

Music teacher Josh Mckay was delighted to see his students rise to the challenge and reap the benefits.

“Watching them work with new people and embrace different styles and backgrounds to create unique pieces of music was a real highlight,” says Josh.

“Chloe thoroughly enjoyed watching the performances live and giving real time feedback with the students over Microsoft Teams. She remarked at the diversity of songs that were written and commended the students for coming up with such polished products after only a week.”

Students’ performance skills were further honed during a second workshop which brought international musicians together via Zoom for a 90 minute online concert. The brainchild of Josh and music teacher at Soto Grande International School in Spain, Kerry Wickersham, the event (held on 5th June) enabled students to perform for an audience, forge international relationships, and receive expert feedback. Students were also treated to a performance from Berklee tutor Mar Fayos, who offered advice about music as a career, and gave invaluable feedback.

“These workshops have been a fantastic success, with students being able to receive world-class feedback and teaching as well as sharing their work with each other and a global audience of students and teachers,” says Josh.

By the end of both workshops, students had made significant breakthroughs with performance anxiety and writer’s block and felt more confident in their own abilities.

“It was wonderful to see them conquer their fears and put the skills they’ve learnt in the classroom into real life practice to create high quality, polished performances and compositions. We have such a wealth of talent here at ACG Strathallan.

“I also loved seeing them so happy with themselves and encouraging each other. I’ve never worked at a school where the students are so supportive of each other – they encourage each other to put themselves out there and try new things. The environment we have here is so positive and both Chloe and Mar saw this in their workshops.”

Soon Josh hopes to include other ACG schools in the masterclass line-up, and plans are already in the pipeline for another performance workshop.

“I want to use the connections with other Inspired schools to ramp up the online concerts, hopefully with five or six schools participating, creating a worldwide Inspired community where our students can share music and forge new relationships.”